The deaths of three deer at the Karachi Zoological Gardens, with a fourth also feared dead, should spur a serious discussion in the country about the conditions in which animals are kept at zoos around the country. Unfortunately, the rights of animals have rarely been taken seriously in Pakistan and so, like previous such incidents, the matter is unlikely to be brought up, let alone debated. It is because of this general apathy that officials at the zoo could claim that the deer died due to “excessive mating”, a medical problem that has never been heard of before and unlikely to be deployed again. By using this made-up condition, zoo officials have shown their utter disdain for those few who may actually care about animal rights.
In August 2011, three lion cubs died at the Karachi Zoo, with a similarly ludicrous explanation being bandied about. Back then, the authorities responsible claimed that the cubs had been eaten by its mother, even though the more likely cause of death was that the cubs were not given shelter from the rain. Back then, as now, officials were concerned only with deflecting blame from themselves, knowing well that the matter would not be pursued further. Unfortunately, they were proved right, and will probably get away with it again this time.
In the US, a country that takes animal rights seriously, just last week the Dustin Hoffman-starring TV show “Luck” was cancelled after three horses died during filming. This move is likely to cause the HBO network tens of millions of dollars in losses. Yet, they went ahead with the cancellation, not wanting to be known as the network that kills horses and face picketing by animal-rights activists. Similar pressure needs to be put on zoo officials here if we are to afford animals the rights they deserve. A start could be made by moving animals away from cages to a habitat more suitable to them. It is about time that the issue of cruelty to animals is brought to national attention as it is reflective of the level of humanity present in society.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.